Skip to main content

Statutes at Large: Using Statutes at Large in Print

A guide to using the Statutes at Large for law students, recent graduates, and members of the public

Potential Uses

The Statutes at Large Allow Users To . . .

  • Look up statutory law
  • Look up laws by bill or public law number
  • Find the full text of a single act all in one place
  • Research historical laws

How to Use

There are several different ways to use the Statutes at Large: “Stat.” citation, public law number (“P.L.”), bill number, popular name, and subject.

Each direct citation to the Statutes at Large has a similar format: “# Stat. #.” The first number represents the volume you will need to use, and the second number represents the page within that volume. This is similar to the citation format for the National Reporter System. With this form of citation, you can go directly to the appropriate volume and page to find what you’re looking for.

If you have a public law or bill number, you will first need to determine which volume your bill or public law should be in. For bills, look at the year the bill was passed (if you only have the Congress under which the bill was passed, refer to a conversion table such as https://www.congress.gov/help/faq#10). The years contained within each Statutes at Large volume will be listed on the spine of the volume. For public laws, the numbers preceding the dash in the citation refer to the Congress (111-23, for example, would be in volume 111). See above for a conversion table to determine the year. Once you know which volume to use, look at the “List of Bills Enacted into Public Law” (bill number) or “List of Public Laws” (public law number) to find the appropriate page.

You can also refer to the popular name and subject indices at the back of each volume to find the page number of specific laws. Again, you will need to limit your search to a specific Congress (or year), since each index only serves that particular volume.

Updating

Statutes at Large are published for each session and serve as the official publication of each law, before it’s codified in the US Code. Therefore, each volume stands alone for the session and does not need to be updated.

The value in the Statutes at Large is that they do not change over time; they are snapshots of what each law looked like at original publication. To see how laws have changed over time, look at the US Code section for the law and update your search within that context.